Why and how I use Twitter

All of the ridiculous “Why i hate Twitter (even though I have never tried it)” articles finally sent me over the edge. I finally tweeted this:

“Dont like twitter? Dont use it. Dont care what ppl had 4 brkfst? Dont follow ppl who tweet abt brkfst. Want 2 know how/why I use it? Ask me”.

Since just Tweeting it would be preaching to the choir, I sent it to Facebook too. And even though only 2 friends actually asked, I decided to answer anyway.

I already wrote about Howard Rheingold’s excellent piece on Twitter literacy, but this is my personal story.

Twitter for me is about both input and output.

For input, I follow about 170 people and organizations right now. Most of the folks I follow are in either higher education or technology fields. They tend to be folks who are plugged into new developments and trends in fields of interest to me, so I often learn about new reports, new technologies, or upcoming conferences from my Twitter network. For example, by following Peter Brantley, I learned of the ALA, ACRL, ARL official endorsement of the Google Book Settlement. I have also found out about conferences I never otherwise would have heard about, like Digital Humanities 09 (#dh09). By following the hashtags of conferences, webinars, talks, etc. I get to participate vicariously (and passively).

I also follow a few organizations like NPRNews, the Clayman Institute, and OCLC, and a few academic libraries, like Duke and UCSF.

Do all the folks I follow tweet professional information 100% of the time?
Nope — almost everyone I follow tweets some mixture of personal & professional stuff (including the occasional meal info). Mostly, I like it that way–it certainly makes the folks I follow, but have never met, seem more like real people to me. Turns out librarians (and even a few of the techies I follow) are pretty funny folks (although a little obsessed with farmer’s markets). But the cool thing about Twitter is, if I find that someone I follow isn’t adding anything interesting or informative to my day, I can just stop following them.

In terms of output, my tweets are likewise a mixture of personal and professional information. The professional stuff is a mix of passing on interesting links, re-tweeting interesting tweets, and promoting stuff about my library.

How do I manage to fit all of this tweeting and reading of tweets into my day?
I use Tweetdeck to organize my Twitter experience. I can organize all the folks I follow into columns for quick scanning of incoming tweets. I have columns for Stanford colleagues, outside colleagues, libraries and other organizations, and “the rest”. I confess that I use “the rest” column sort of like a junk folder. Anyone who gets delegated to the “the rest” column is at risk of being unfollowed.
The column format makes it easy for me to read/scan lots of tweets at once. I have Tweetdeck open most of the day. Depending on what I am doing, I check new Tweets as they come, or when I have a few minutes. Being on the west coast means that the biggest tweet-reading challenge is first thing in the morning, when my east coast tweeps have been up and tweeting for several hours. Even then, it takes less than 5 minutes to scan the morning’s tweets.
For me, Twitter has proven to be an extremely efficient way to stay current in fields that matter to me, and to stay connected to colleagues (some of whom I have yet to meet in real life, but would welcome the opportunity).

That’s my Twitter story, and I’m stickin’ to it. YMMV.

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